Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recap: 100 Year of Giving DC Fly-In Day

Chris Griffin is AFP’s coordinator for professional advancement. He volunteered to attend the Fly-In Day on Capitol Hill, hosted by the Charitable Giving Coalition (which AFP chairs) to raise awareness of the importance of philanthropy and the charitable deduction. Here’s his report:

Overall, it was a pretty amazing experience. I would suggest everyone make an opportunity to go to Capitol Hill whenever you’re able. As you’re meeting with members of the House and their staff, you can’t help but think that you’re witnessing and making actual impact.

The Wednesday night before the event, we had a dinner and training on the Hill with everyone who had flown in from across the U.S. Art Taylor of the Wise Giving Alliance sponsored dinner and Jason, in his role as Chair of the Charitable Giving Alliance, gave opening remarks. We were then given talking points, summarizing some of the issues we would be addressing the next day.

The big issue comes down to this: the amount given by individuals last year added up to $265 billion, and eighty percent of that comes from taxpayers who are taking itemized deductions.  One possibility for tax reform is increasing the standard deduction (what you get for just being you, i.e. single head of household, married filing jointly, etc.) to the point that there would be no incentive for many people to itemize and donate. Such a change could cause the charitable sector to lose billions of dollars! There are other changes that would affect itemized deductions that could lead to a drop in giving in the range $9 – 13 billion or more.

Participants in the Fly-In Day were divided into groups by state so we would meet with the representatives of that state.  Our group had Virginia, and we met with two Members of Congress and three staff members.

In each office, we introduced ourselves and explained our connection to Virginia.  We first met with Congresswoman Comstock who assured us she was in favor of the current charitable deduction and her first priority was “to do no harm”.  We then met with a legislative aide for Senator Warner who told us that the Senator appreciated our concerns, but she wasn’t sure when actual decisions would be made about tax reform. This sense was echoed by staffers for Senator Tim Kaine, who also asked us for stories about impact that would help the Senator make the case, and by Congressman Dave Brat’s legislative director. (At one point, we noticed Congressman Brat’s office had a special refrigerator just for hummus that we all eyed hungrily. Jason, we need this at AFP!)

The day concluded with a meeting with Congressman Don Beyer. He gave Jason some inside scoop on the space program (Mars in 2030—you heard it here first!), and then talked about each of our organizations and how he related to each one—no small feat given we represented the Nature Conservancy, Capital Hospice, Salvation Army, Cancer Research and AFP.  It was a great end to the day. 

The Fly-In Day was a big success but it’s just the beginning of our work this year. While my focus is on professional training and continuing education, being on Capitol Hill made me realize just what’s at stake and how passionate all of you—our members—are about the work you do. Please stay involved, and I know Jason will be asking for your engagement later this year as we see tax reform plans officially introduced.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Togetherness, the Foundation of Philanthropy

Fundraising professionals reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. We work to address the needs of a diverse society. We welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.

That text comes from our new strategic plan, developed for 2017 – 2019, where inclusivity is one of six guiding principles (including ethics and trust; professional preparation; advancing philanthropy; partnership and collaboration; and creativity and innovation) that will help guide our association and our profession into the future.

But diversity and inclusion are more than just principles that guide us. They help form the very identity and philosophy of AFP since it was first created in 1960.

Our role as fundraisers is to bring people—everyone—together to help create stronger communities and improve the quality of life for all people.

And we do mean everyone. There are no caveats, no limitations.

The very foundation of the philanthropic sector is to embrace all people, all groups.

In the same fashion, we welcome every individual—without exception—to the fundraising profession and the AFP community. For each member brings a unique array and wealth of talent, experience and perspectives that can only strengthen and enhance philanthropy.

And we look forward to seeing everyone—whether you are traveling from near or far—to the AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, April 30 – May 2, where we will welcome you with open arms as we come together to advance our profession and help change the world.

Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP
Jason Lee, President and CEO, AFP

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness

Last week, BoardSource, Guidestar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and AFP announced a new framework for evaluating fundraising effectiveness — one that provides a balanced approach that emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs.

I encourage you to read more about the new project, Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness, and download the free toolkits and resources that go with it, but it’s important to understand what the framework is (and isn’t) meant to be.

Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness isn’t a detailed primer on what does and doesn’t count as a fundraising cost. And it’s not like the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, another AFP collaborative project which seeks to help charities understand where they need to improve their fundraising efforts  (typically through donor retention). 

Rather, it’s a holistic way to look at fundraising costs and introduces a way to start conversations with board, staff, donors and others about your fundraising—and more importantly, explain WHY you raise funds for your organization in the way you do.

Too often, conversations about fundraising costs end up focused on what your fundraising costs are and if they are “good” or “bad.” Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness stresses that your organization’s fundraising approach is going to be unique and different from any other charity’s, based on many factors, including mission, values, history, donor base and others. It’s an important idea that builds upon something AFP has been championing for many years—that any sort of fundraising cost “line in the sand” doesn’t make any sense given the hundreds of factors that can affect fundraising from year to year.

Even more compelling to the framework is a discussion of the different types of fundraising and what they are designed to do. The purpose of a direct mail program is of course far different than the mission of a major gifts program. Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness illuminates these differences in a clear and easy way for non-fundraisers, along with other key points about how some types of fundraising take longer to find success and how different fundraising vehicles rely on each other to be most effective. 

And that’s really the most critical part of this new framework—how we reach out to boards, staffs, donors and others about fundraising costs.  That’s where the education has to begin about fundraising costs, making sure that our leaders, our presidents, our CEOs, our major donors and others understand why fundraising is important, the balance between fundraising costs and efficiency, and how the fundraising choices we make affect our organization.

There are some great tools and resources for helping you start conversations about these very important issues. Please download Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

100 Years of Giving DC Fly-In Day is Feb. 16!

I talked in my last blog about how much uncertainty the fundraising profession and the charitable sector are facing this year, especially as it relates to government relations and public policy. I also said that we’re committed to implementing an aggressive campaign to not only defend the charitable deduction this year, but also to increase giving incentives.

The first step in that campaign is already here, as I’m proud to announce that the Charitable Giving Coalition (which AFP chairs) is holding the 100 Years of Giving DC Fly-In on Feb. 16.

All AFP members are invited to attend and help us educate members of Congress about why now, after 100 years since the charitable deduction was signed into law, philanthropy needs to be strengthened and enhanced. We will hold an evening event on Wed., Feb. 15th, to provide training and updated information for attendees to prepare them for the next day

Our message is simple: In any tax reform plan, philanthropy and the charitable deduction MUST be protected. In addition, we’re going to be calling for an “above the line” universal charitable deduction that all taxpayers, even non-itemizers, can take when calculating their taxes.

We’ll be focusing our meetings on Senate and House leaders, as well as members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the tax-writing committees of Congress that will be considering tax reform. But we’ll help you plan to visit your own Member of Congress as well.

For additional information about the event, click here. To RSVP, contact Ali Davidson with your name, organization and state/Congressional district at adavidson@urbanswirski.com. And if you’re going to participate, please let AFP know by emailing paffairs@afpnet.org.

As a leader in the philanthropic sector, APF has a responsibility to ensure that philanthropy isn’t just protected, but advanced, and that policy leaders understand WHY the deduction is critical and works so well to fund countless causes across the U.S. I hope that you’ll be able to join us for this very important event, and be on the outlook for more messages and alerts about public policy from AFP throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ringing in 2017 With Certainty in Uncertain Times

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a great holiday season. So many of you were working right down to the wire on December 31st, inspiring last-minute gifts—I hope that you had some time to relax and recuperate before getting back to work in 2017.

The New Year always brings it shares of predictions for the next 12 months, and you can read any number of those posts from some great fundraisers across the Web (you can check out a few of those in this week’s AFP Top Ten).

Of course, any prediction comes with a bit of uncertainty, and that word, “uncertainty,” certainly seems to define 2017. It’s difficult to recall another year with so much uncertainty about the economy and government policy towards charities and philanthropy. In the current environment, it is possible that Congress could make significant changes to the tax code, including the charitable deduction. With a different approach to economic policy from President-Elect Trump, we are curious to see how that will impact giving levels, especially at a time when we’ve seen strong growth in recent years. 

Meanwhile, we continue to push for new giving incentives in Canada, but we have much work ahead of us as we encourage Parliament to enact those incentives, such as exemptions from the capital gains tax on gifts of publicly traded securities.

Despite this overall uncertainty, there are a few things you CAN be certain of this year. And they start with your fundraising community: AFP. Throughout the year, we are going to:

  • Offer new training and education, including pre-conference workshops, the International Advanced Diploma, and webinars and e-courses focusing on innovations and the skills you need to succeed;
  • Implement an advocacy campaign to ensure that charitable giving incentives are not only protected, but also strengthened and enhanced in North America;
  • Strengthen the work of our three Foundations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico;
  • Provide communications focused on you, your expertise and your level of experience; and
  • Highlight the impact of fundraising to the public, bolstered by a new strategic plan and new mission and vision statements. 

The last point is particularly important. Having gone through a series of branding studies and surveys, we’re shifting about how we talk about the profession and the work you do. We’re not going to stop providing top-notch education and training—if anything, that’s going to increase. But we’re also going to emphasize the societal change that you help create.

Donors certainly want to know that fundraisers are ethical, trained and professional—that’s without question. But what ultimately matters to them is impact: how they can work with your organization to make a difference. After all, that’s why they (and you!) got involved in philanthropy in the first place—to help change the world.

And that’s what we want to celebrate. The impact you have on your communities through your professionalism and training—through the skills and knowledge you use with every donor, and the ethical standards and best practices you uphold every day. Fundraisers are the catalyst—the engine—that drives philanthropy, and it’s that link that we want to spotlight throughout 2017.

There’s a lot of uncertainty heading into 2017, but we’re excited about bringing all of these new changes and programming to you, and being able to help you inspire donors and create impact throughout the year. As we roll out new programs and communications, feel free to drop me a line anytime and give me your feedback and opinion. You are our partners and the heart of our association, and I always want to hear from you.

Let’s work together to make 2017 an exceptional year for fundraising and philanthropy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thank You

I like to use this blog typically to discuss what’s happening at AFP, trends in the profession and events around the world that affect our ability to inspire donors and raise funds.

But this blog will be a little different. It will be about one thing and one thing only: thanking you.

Thank you for upholding the highest ethical standards in your work.
Every time you promote and abide by the Code of Ethics, you’re encouraging others to use it as well. You act as a role model for your peers, particularly the next generation of fundraisers. We’ll never know how many controversies have been avoided simply by referring your board, your colleagues and others to the Code when there were questions.

Thank you for continuing your education and aspiring to be a better fundraiser.
There are still some who think that being a fundraiser requires little more than a phone or a website, but this is a profession. It requires constant learning, constant evolution. Your investment in continuing education demonstrates the professionalism that is needed to be a fundraiser, and makes your organization and its fundraising that much more effective.

Thank you for supporting the fundraising profession through donations to the AFP Foundations for Philanthropy.  The Foundations are our partners in cultivating relationships and partnerships with fundraisers and organizations around the world. Your gifts enhance the impact of AFP in countless areas, including research, inclusion and diversity, ethics and chapter programming.

Thank you for inspiring so many people to give and engage in our communities. New studies show that although giving is increasing, the number of donors is slowly decreasing. Your work in bringing people together—encouraging a diverse people from all walks of life and society to commit to a culture of philanthropy—is incredibly important not just for your mission, but also for philanthropy and all of society.

Thank you for being a part of AFP and the fundraising community.
We are stronger as a community, united and working together to advance our profession. And no matter where you meet an AFP member—in Los Angeles or Toronto, Mexico City or Hong Kong—you’ll have instant commonalities and can share and learn from each other’s stories and lessons. Your membership—and your input and perspective—keeps AFP and the profession strong and vibrant. It is a thread that weaves us together for the common good.

On behalf of the boards and staff of AFP, thank you. It is our great honor and privilege to serve all of you. We hope you have a very joyous and happy holiday season and look forward to working with you in 2017.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Force for Unity in Polarizing Times

Any election brings change—some more than others. But change is something that AFP always is prepared for, particularly when it comes to public policy. Regardless of who is president, or which party is in control of Congress, we view fundraising, philanthropy, and charity as nonpartisan. We work to ensure that all parties and officials understand and support philanthropy because it is a symbol and a tradition that cuts across all ideologies and ultimately, brings good to all Americans.

It’s an important principle that becomes even more critical in the aftermath of one of the most politically polarizing and exhausting elections ever. We shouldn’t forget that the charitable sector has long been a key force for bringing people together—to build bridges to understanding and to encourage cooperation and collaboration. Philanthropy creates common ground. We can agree upon causes worth supporting or a vital program or service that needs funding. Through philanthropy, we often realize that we have more in common than we think.

In that spirit, AFP will continue to work with all political parties to preserve and promote the extraordinary, long-standing tradition of philanthropy in America, Canada, and other parts of the globe.

We'll be reaching out to all new Members of Congress to educate them about the importance of philanthropy, as well as talking with Senate Finance and House Ways and Means staff about the prospects of tax reform in 2017.

President-elect Trump has already indicated his interest in revamping the tax code, although his initial tax plan, while vague on some details, appeared to not directly limit the charitable deduction. However, his plan did increase the impact of the Pease Limitation on itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, for certain taxpayers. This penalty for high-income taxpayers could result in a decrease in charitable giving. In a letter sent earlier this year, AFP urged Mr. Trump and other presidential candidates to reconsider the inclusion of the increased Pease Limitation in their tax plans. We’ll be sending him another letter in the near future, discussing again the importance of philanthropy and charitable giving incentives.

What ultimately emerges from the White House and Congress in terms of tax policy is anyone’s guess at this point, but we will be ready. AFP will be busy on Capitol Hill over the next several months, and we’ll need your help on the grassroots level as well. I encourage all AFP members to reach out to their members of Congress, especially individuals just recently elected, and educate them about the importance of philanthropy. We’ll be developing some talking points and guidance on talking with your legislators about these issues.

Regardless of the election results, our work must continue: ensuring that public policy reflects the importance of fundraising and philanthropy in our society.

Democracy works best when people work together and strive to have a positive impact on our communities. And that is your strength—your ability to reach out to different groups and unite our governments and our leaders around an environment supportive of giving, volunteering, and fundraising.